Say What?! How to deal with negative, unsolicited advice or comments about your body

This topic gets me all kinds of fired up so I’m going to try my hardest to keep it rant-free 🙂

Let me first start of by saying this:  Your body is no one’s business but YOURS.  No one has the right to comment on what you look like or don’t look like, how much you weigh, how skinny you are, how much muscle you have, the way you exercise, what you eat, how you eat or any other choice you make in regards to your body, or life for that matter, simply because it’s none of their business.

But we don’t live in a perfect world, so people will comment.  Anyone from parents, siblings, family members, friends, co-workers, clients or even a stranger on the street can for some reason feel the need to share their opinions of others bodies whether it’s asked for or not. And it doesn’t stop with our bodies.  People comment how people parent, career choices, what they spend their money on, what clothes they wear, etc. 

Here are just a few examples of how I’ve experienced this first hand:

> At a funeral for my great Uncle, my sister and I were sharing some mini desserts.  I walked by a family member while holding the plate of desserts and she warned “Oh Lau…don’t indulge too much.” 

> At the gym, I had an older gentlemen come up to me and tell me that I was getting too big and that I wasn’t looking feminine anymore.

> I had a personal training client sarcastically say “Your parents must be proud of you.  Four years of college and you’re doing something that doesn’t even require a college degree.”

> And lastly, I had someone go out of their way to share with me their friends’ opinion on my website, which was negative, and things she thought I should change.

I’ll tell you what, even though I’ve developed a thick skin and have practiced strategies to get beyond peoples unsolicited advice and comments, that doesn’t mean they don’t still sting the difference is that now they only sting for a second instead of days or weeks or months.

People will give their opinions for any number of reasons.  Maybe its jealousy, insecurity, lack of compassion or maybe they genuinely care and want to offer advice but they just don’t know how to frame it in a way that’s not offensive or simply don’t know enough to MYOB. But we’re not here to talk about them.  We can never ever control what other people say to us or about us.  What we can control, though, is our reaction to their comments and what we make their words mean.

I have four strategies below that you can use to gently tell others to MYOB, set boundaries and let their words roll off your back.  

1. Spin It

This is my favorite strategy and it’s one I’ve been implementing for a while now.  This is where we take their negative comment and spin it to a positive.

Take for example the client who commented on my career choice.  I mean it’s true that I didn’t need a degree to become a personal trainer, but like I told my client, my nutrition degree allowed me to do nutrition coaching with clients which no other trainer in the gym could do.  I had a full client load, I was living on my own, paying my own way and I was happy.  Of course my parents were proud of me. Even if they weren’t, I was happy. What’s more important than that?  Certainly not his opinion.

Another place you could use the spin it strategy is when someone comments on what you’re eating.  This is SUPER common and I’m sure the majority of us have dealt with this before, especially if we’re eating healthy.  I’ve had people tell me my food looks gross, probably tastes disgusting or ask how I eat “stuff like that” (meaning chicken and veggies, hah!).  My simple response? “It actually tastes really good and makes me feel really good so that’s why I eat it.” They might come back with another comment, but I’d suggest just smiling and shake it off. 

2. Take the attention away from your appearance

What if someone tells you that you’re too skinny or too heavy? A response like “I can deadlift over 100lbs and get through spin class with no problem so I’m pretty happy with that!” Take the focus away from your body and respond with what you can DO with the body they feel the need to comment on. They can keep their opinions but that doesn’t mean you have to.  

3. Say “Thank You!”

This will throw ‘em for a loop 😉 I’ve used this when people comment on my body or when they comment on what I eat. “Your legs look like they’re getting big, Lauren” to which I respond with “Hah! Thanks!” (little did they know this was a huge compliment to me ;)). If they go on to tell you their statement wasn’t meant as a compliment you can say “OK” and change the subject. You could also say something like “Oh. I took it as one!” Using this one can feel pretty good.

4. Directly Stand Up for Yourself

If you’re bold (and perhaps you might want to be) you can simply tell them their opinion wasn’t asked for, it wasn’t wanted and they can kindly mind their own business 🙂

 

Lastly, I want you to really consider the source. Is this someone who really cares about you and has your best interest at heart?  Maybe your mom is on you for gaining some weight, and sure it stings…a lot…but maybe you can see her coming from a place of love and caring and wanting what’s best for you.  Instead of immediately taking offense and getting defensive, you can tell her that while you appreciate that she cares, you’re going to take care of your body, your way. This will set a boundary where you’re acknowledging her love but also telling her MYOB, please. Whatever you do, though, don’t tell her not to worry about you. Ha!  It’s kind of their job 😉

If the comments are coming from someone outside of your inner circle, ask yourself how valuable their opinion really is. Take the women who commented on my website for example.  I don’t know her, probably never will, she doesn’t like what I talk about or the direction my biz is going.  All this means to me is that just much as my stuff isn’t for her, she’s not for me either.  There are hundreds of thousands of blogs on the internet, so she’ll find what she needs just as so many people have found me!

 

I’m don’t think any of us will ever be completely immune from negative comments.  Words hurt and it’s natural to feel the sting or feel embarrassed, angry, ashamed, etc.  But guys.  Your body, your choices, your business.  Like I said earlier, there are a thousand reasons why people feel the need to comment, and we can’t control that. What we always have a choice over is how we react and what we make their words mean.  By implementing some of the strategies above you’ll get to the point where their words mean literally nothing.

You are strong, you are beautiful, you are fabulous. Once you know this in your heart of hearts, the less other people’s opinions will matter.


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